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Is Filipino food the worst…many say food in the Philippines is bland


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Back in 2008 when they found out that Anthony Bourdain was coming to Manila for the first time. There was a hum around the city, our culinary glitterati sent into a tailspin.

 

Where will he eat? Will he like the food? He definitely has to try lechon. Can you imagine Tony eating isaw? We can call him Tito Tony! Will he be too mean? Will he be mean enough?

 

It was something of an event, the arrival of the food world’s preeminent chef, the spotlight shone on what is arguably a forgotten food city, the prodigal child of Southeast Asia.

 

Historically speaking, we do not have to look too far down to understand exactly why the Western gaze and the Filipino consciousness are so deeply entwined.

 

However, one might conclude that all Philippine food is American: hamburgers, fried chicken, steak, sandwiches, ‘junk’ food, fast food.”

 

This explains the amount of online vitriol aimed by Filipino twitter users towards Cornell University political science instructor Tom Pepinsky when he “objectively” ranked Southeast Asia’s many cuisines in a tweet, placing Filipino food last.

 

Filipino food is the worst

 

This was followed up by Jakarta-based feminist activist Kate Walton’s bold refrain that “Filipino food is the worst.”

 

Both users are white foreigners who have travelled throughout the region. They are familiar with the food they speak of, but they are outsiders.

 

When asked to describe Filipino food, a local said, “For me, what defines Filipino food is the flavor: salty, sour, masarsa (saucy), strong in garlic and seasoning, unlike other Southeast Asian dishes that are more on herbs.”

 

“We name our food after the [cooking] process: ginataan (with coconut milk), inihaw (grilled)."

 

Many Filipinos consider adobo, the national dish of the Philippines. The perfect adobo lies in the delicate balance of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices (bay leaves and fresh ground peppercorns).

 

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A lot of the dishes you can find in Filipino cuisine can be high in calories with a poor balance of macronutrients as lots of the calories come from fats and sugar.

 

Since a lot of Filipino food contains fatty meats and highly caloric sauces, it is difficult to find dishes that are ideal for losing weight.

 

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When compared to other Southeast Asian cuisines, Filipino food — with its lack of spice, use of unorthodox ingredients such as offal, and focus on sourness and linamnam — may be deemed by these outsiders as not “exotic” enough to be worth their interest, as being both too alien and too “bland.”

 

But it is key to remember that while Western staples like fried chicken and spaghetti dominate here, they are, in their DNA — coated thick in banana ketchup and shreds of cheddar cheese — still very much our own and, more importantly, not anyone else’s.

 

Strangely enough, in a twist of fate, Bourdain — chosen one, the rarest of tourists unlike all others, a perpetual foreigner who was always aware of his white privilege, and a genuine lover of all things deeply delicious wherever they are from — might have put into words exactly what few outsiders could only dream of understanding about Filipino food.

 

During one of his final visits to Manila, eating at — of all places — Jollibee, he called the almost cloyingly sweet spaghetti “deranged, yet strangely alluring.”

 

And in that moment, he captured the spirit of what makes Filipino food so glorious.

 

OK so the Philippines is not going to be remembered like France as a culinary experience, but what do you think of the food served up at the restaurants there?

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